At least 384 dead, 29 missing after Indonesian quakes and tsunami





Jakarta - By Ahmad Pathoni, - At least 384 people have died after two earthquakes and a subsequent tsunami hit Indonesia's Sulawesi island, an official said on Saturday.



 
Twenty-nine people were missing and 540 others were seriously injured after Friday's 7.4-magnitude quake and tsunami that hit Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said. 
Sutopo said the death toll was likely to increase as the figures were only from the city of Palu. 
The neighbouring district of Donggala was also hit by the tsunami. 
"We have not received information from Donggala," he said. 
The second earthquake, on Friday, triggered a tsunami of up to 3 metres in height, officials said.
The country's geophysics agency initially put the magnitude of the quake at at 7.7, but later revised it down to 7.4. 
The quake knocked out electricity and telecommunication networks, making it difficult for authorities to inspect damage and recover victims, officials said.
Palu's Mutiara airport was still closed to flights after sustaining some damage in the quake, with only helicopters able to land there, Air Force spokesperson Novyan Samyoga said.  
A 21-year-old air traffic controller at the airport died after the tower he was in was damaged by the quake moments after he cleared a flight, said Yohanes Sirait, manager of the state-owned air navigation company AirNav Indonesia.
Komang Adi Sujendra, director of the state-run Undata hospital in Palu, said he had appealed for assistance after its buildings were damaged in the quake. 
"We need all the help we can get," Komang said. "We need field hospitals, medical workers, medicines and blankets." 
More than half of 560 inmates in a Palu prison escaped after the earthquake caused its walls to collapse, chief warder Adhi Yan Ricoh told the state Antara news agency.  
He said guards could not stop the prisoners from escaping because the electricity was out and they were outnumbered.
"Besides, the guards were also busy saving themselves," Adhi was quoted as saying. 
The authorities have not tried to recapture the fugitives because they were busy helping victims of the earthquake and the tsunami, Adhi said. 
A tsunami as high as 3 metres slammed into homes and buildings in the coastal city minutes after the quake, sweeping away vehicles and everything in its path.
People screamed in panic and fled to higher ground. But some were swept away, including five members of one family, said Sutopo.    
Palu's landmark 250-metre Ponulele road bridge collapsed in the earthquake. Photos issued by the disaster agency showed the mangled yellow-painted steel that used to support the structure.
Quay cranes at Palu's Pantoloan Port were toppled, prompting the suspension of port services, according to the Transportation Ministry.
"The damage is quite extensive after the tsunami in Palu. Several people died," he said, without providing figures.      
"The number of victims continues to increase. The evacuation of victims is under way," he said.  
President Joko Widodo urged people to remain calm, saying help was on the way.  
"I have ordered the coordinating minister for security, BNPB and the TNI [military] to travel to Central Sulawesi to handle the emergency period as quick as possible," Joko said. 
"May we overcome this tribulation together," he added.
The powerful 7.4-magnitude quake struck just three hours after a 5.9-magnitude quake hit the area.
Several aftershocks have rattled the area since then.
The Sulawesi quakes came after more than 550 people were killed and more than 400,000 were displaced in August in a series of powerful quakes that devastated the Indonesian resort island of Lombok.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area known for seismic upheavals and volcanic eruptions.
About 230,000 people in a dozen countries died after a magnitude-9.1 earthquake off the west coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island spawned a devastating tsunami on December 26, 2004. 

Saturday, September 29th 2018
By Ahmad Pathoni,
           


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